Hexcells Review

Screenshot from Hexcells
For those familiar with games like Minesweeper and Nonograms, Hexcells will be a breeze

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Matthew Brown
  • Publisher: Matthew Brown
  • Release Date: 19 Feb 2014
  • Time played: 3.3 hours

What is it

There isn't much information out there about British indie developer Matthew Brown but since about 2014 he has been quite prolific in pumping out games, especially puzzle games.

Brown made his mark with the game I'm reviewing today, Hexcells which was released in 2014. The game is like a cross of Minesweeper and Nonograms (aka Picross) except played on a hexagonal grid. The aim of the game is to clear out all the hexes on the board by marking where the blue hexes are (similar to the bomb squares in Minesweeper) and removing hexes when you're sure it's not meant to be marked as a blue hex. Clearing hexes that aren't blue hexes will provide you a number that gives you a clue as to how many blue hexes are in adjacent hexes. As you make your way through the game, it will provide you other ways of determining where the blue hexes are such as numbers on the side of the grid similar to Nonograms. You are assessed on how effective you are at clearing levels for if you make too many mistakes you're barred access from future levels (which there are 30 of overall).

Hexcells was quite the critical success achieving a Steam rating of "Overwhelmingly Positive" due to 96% of the 3,323 Steam User Reviews being positive.

How I got it

I managed to get the key for this game in 2016 but I can't quite remember how. Most likely I managed to get the key from either the generous Mix-Master (a friend of mine on Steam) or one of the Whirlpudlians on the Whirlpool forums (there is a thread that offers free keys).

As already mentioned, Hexcells had quite the reputation as a decent puzzle game so I wanted to experience the game for myself and make my own mind…. It may have taken a few years for that to happen but I've finally completed the game and here is the review!

Screenshot from Hexcells
In the later levels you'll have to have your wits about you in order to clear the board

What I like:


Hexcells has a very calming, ambient soundtrack but the best part is that each time you clear or mark hexes on the board, it adds extra notes to the music you hear which means not only are you solving a puzzle, you're also creating your own soundtrack.

Not punishing for puzzle novices

Gameplay is relatively easy to pick up, especially if you're used to games such as Minesweeper and Nonograms. Despite not being a puzzle game guru like my wife, I was even able to complete the game, although I had to replay certain levels multiple times before I solved them with no mistakes.

Steam Achievements

The game has 6 Steam Achievements you can work towards but sadly has no Steam Trading Cards you can collect.

Screenshot from Hexcells
Like many puzzle games, you're prevented from accessing later levels if you're not efficient with earlier ones

What I dislike:


As mentioned, I had to retry levels several times and even then, it only took me just over 3 hours to complete this game. For those that are quite adept at puzzle games, it could easily be done in under a couple of hours.

Limited replay value

Another potential problem with this game is that it has limited replay value. I think it was just about right for me, not to mention I prefer games that you can complete (I hate loose ends), however if you're good at puzzle games, you'll find most of these puzzles a breeze, which means there'll be no need to replay them. Also, puzzles in the game are not procedurally generated meaning the solution is always the same: this means you could potentially remember where hexes are from previous playthroughs until you get it right, ditching any need for deductive reasoning out the window.

Gated content

This is one of my pet peeves in puzzle games and unfortunately Hexcells has it too. In order to proceed to later levels you have to solve puzzles efficiently or else you'll never get a chance to experience them. I can understand this might force players to learn to play the game properly before you get to the difficult stuff but it could also mean a lot of frustration and the inability for players to experience the whole game regardless of how good they are at solving puzzles or not. Why not just reward players with achievements if they're able to solve puzzles efficiently but still allow the rest of us plebs to play the game?

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)

A generally relaxing experience thanks to its calming music and lack of time limits, Hexcells is a game that even puzzle game novices can have a go at and feel a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the levels aren't procedurally generated meaning the game has limited replay value and at only 2-3 hours long, it's a short game.

Is the game worth $4.50 AUD?: Yes. Despite the game being quite short, you'll still get 2-3 hours of entertainment playing this game.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Matthew Brown's Steam Developer Page ]